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In need of some advice about Statistics programs


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Alright, so here is my current situation:

I recently graduated this May from SUNY Stony Brook with a B.S. in Mathematics and Statistics. I thought I had wanted to become an actuary, but I realized that is not something I want to do. I applied to a few MS in Statistics programs for this upcoming Spring, but I eventually want to get a PHD in this field. I am wondering whether I should wait till next Fall and try to get into a PHD program or just do the MS first and then apply to some programs.

As of right now my GPA isn't that great - 3.45 out of 4 and in my math classes I have some A's, but I also have a couple of bad marks (C+, B). I took the general GRE and got 800 Quant, 500 Verb, 4.5 Analytical. (I figured the high quant score is basically expected of any math major, so it's not really an achievement.) I don't have any research experience either.

So, I am wondering if it would be better if I did the MS, get better grades, some research experience, and better letter of recommendation letters and then apply to some PHD programs. I am afraid that some of the PHD programs have their own track and wouldn't want someone who already has an MS. I am also wondering how important the reputation of the program is - for example, if I should apply to some lower tier programs next Fall, or wait until I get my MS and then apply to top programs. Any advice would be beneficial. Thanks!

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